Playoff basketball returning

Levi Erkkila

The Northern Michigan University Women’s Basketball team hit the road last weekend for two GLIAC matchups with the Ferris State University (FSU) Bulldogs and the Lake Superior State University (LSSU) Lakers. At the conclusion of Thursday’s matchup against FSU, head coach Troy Mattson had earned his 200th win after a 70-66 double-overtime victory against the Bulldogs. On Saturday, the Wildcats followed up by beating LSSU 63-47 to secure home court advantage in the GLIAC quarterfinals.

“I really like the attitude and direction our leaders and seniors are taking us,” head coach Troy Mattson explained.

Senior guard Darby Youngstrom led the Wildcats with a career-high of 25 points. Youngstrom also led the team with eight rebounds and four steals. Sophomore guard Lexi Smith added 18 points, six rebounds and four assists while junior guard Baleigh Delorit converted a career-high of five 3-pointers and scoring 15 points. Junior center Jessica Schultz notched eight rebounds and had a team-high of six assists.

NMU jumped out to a 5-2 lead four minutes into the game. An NMU 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter sent NMU into the second frame with an 11-7 advantage.

FSU opened the second quarter on a 7-0 and bounced ahead to a 14-11 advantage. Ferris State outscored the Wildcats 15-5 over the remainder of the half and NMU’s deficit was 13 points, as it trailed 29-16 heading into the break.

Three minutes into the second half, the Wildcats scrapped back into the game to cut the Bulldog lead to single digits, 35-29, its slimmest lead since the first half. Ferris State scored the first four points in the fourth quarter but NMU answered with a pair of threes to make it 47-43 with six minutes left to play. Youngstrom scored five straight points as NMU took a 48-47 lead with 4:36 remaining. With 10 seconds remaining in regulation, NMU took a 52-50 lead, however, Ferris State was able to tie the game with four seconds remaining and force overtime with the score locked at 52-52.

FSU jumped ahead to a 56-53 lead in the first overtime, but NMU tied it on its next possession with a three. NMU gained a 61-58 advantage with 22 seconds to go, but the hosts again tied the game, this time at 61-61 apiece. The teams would have to prepare for a second overtime period.

In the second overtime, NMU jumped out to a 65-61 midway through the frame. The Bulldogs tied the score at 66-66 with 58 seconds to play but the Wildcats quickly stormed down the court to score a quick basket just 14 seconds later. NMU added two more points and the defense finally registered a stop in the final seconds as the clock struck zero to secure a 70-66 double-overtime victory.

In Saturday’s game, NMU defeated Lake Superior State 63-47 to secure home court advantage in the GLIAC quarterfinals.

Youngstrom led the Wildcats with 15 points and is now just 35 away points from achieving 1,000 points in her career. Sophomores Elizabeth Lutz and Smith both added 12 points while senior guard Sydney Dillinger notched seven points. Senior center Taylor Hodell, junior guard Erin Honkala and Schultz each finished with five rebounds.

NMU finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field while outscoring the Lakers 40-14 in the paint.

“Youngstrom has really changed the game for us. She has been playing great for about a month,” Mattson said.

The Wildcats improve to 19-6 on the season and 14-3 in the GLIAC. NMU will continue its road trip next week as they visit Grand Valley State University Thursday night. The ’Cats then turn around and head to Davenport for a Saturday matchup.